DENVER — A 23-year-old metro Denver woman has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Regis University for the way she says it failed to handle her claim of sexual harassment.
The former graduate student and the 58-year-old professor she accuses of inappropriate behavior are not being named. The professor resigned last week, seven months after the woman first complained to university leaders, according to her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.
The student and her attorney Paula Greisen said they suspect Regis University forced the professor to step down but only after it was clear the university was going to be the target of legal action.
“If the professor not being a part of the university any longer was the correct action, I am surprised it did not happen in July,” the student said.
The student said she was one year into her graduate study program when things took an uncomfortable turn at an out-of-town hotel in June.
She said she and the professor, who was also her immediate supervisor, were attending a conference when he asked her to come to his hotel room before dinner one night.
“When I knocked on the door, he opened it wearing his boxers and a T-shirt. He invited me inside and continued to dress,” said the student, who added she felt very uncomfortable.
A month later on another out-of-town trip that the student felt wasn’t necessary for her to attend but did at the professor’s insistence, she said the professor, “Offered me a glass of wine and shared deep intimate personal feelings with me. Things such as ‘You are my soul mate and I love you and my wife both,’ which of course made me feel uncomfortable.”
When she returned to Denver, the student said she complained to human resources at Regis, and was told she and her professor would no longer share workspace or have to see each other, but they were still expected to work together using email.
“There were emails that would say, ‘I think we really need to have a phone conversation, there’s a lot that we need to go over,'” remembered the student, who said the “separation plan” wasn’t working and she was having anxiety attacks.
She finally chose to leave the university in November but not on terms she would’ve chosen.
“I was offered a sabbatical and that felt like a way to cover up the situation and gracefully ask me to exit,” she said.
“The university promptly and fully investigated the allegations and took immediate, appropriate, corrective action as specified in its nondiscrimination and sexual misconduct policy,” the university said in a statement. “The subject of this charge is no longer employed by the university.”
But a university email sent to students on Sunday announcing the professor’s resignation makes it clear the professor didn’t resign until late February.
“If that was the appropriate immediate action, then why wasn’t it done in time to save this young woman’s career?” Greisen said.
“The student is gone. They’ve tried to save face and we have a student who had an amazing career path that is now working at Starbucks.”
The 23-year-old former student said she never felt the university took her concerns seriously.
“At Regis as an undergrad and as a graduate student in all of my courses, we were taught to fight against injustice … to protect the victim and the hypocrisy that I felt from the university that I gave so much to is really painful,” she said.
The student’s EEOC complaint states the professor did not deny his conduct during a university mediation hearing.
Regis said in its statement that it’s confident the EEOC will reject the student’s complaint.